From the Journals

Poor weight loss after bariatric surgery? Liraglutide may help



Up to one in four patients who undergo metabolic/bariatric surgery have less than 20% weight loss and patients need additional strategies to help them reach their goals.

In the new BARI-OPTIMISE trial, patients with poor weight loss after such surgery were randomized to the glucagonlike peptide–1 (GLP-1) agonist liraglutide 3.0 mg/day or placebo. Liraglutide was safe and well-tolerated and led to a clinically meaningful 8% further reduction in bodyweight, compared with placebo, report Jessica Mok, BMBS, MPhil, University College London and colleagues, in their study published online in JAMA Surgery.

Weight loss in BARI-OPTIMISE (–9.2 kg or –20 lb) was greater than the weight loss in the earlier GRAVITAS trial of 80 patients with persistent or recurrent type 2 diabetes randomized to liraglutide 1.8 mg/day or placebo, Dr. Mok and colleagues note. And more patients in BARI-OPTIMISE than in GRAVITAS lost 5% or more of their baseline weight (72% vs. 46%).

“Our findings therefore suggest that liraglutide, 3.0 mg, may have a role in the treatment of people with poor weight loss following metabolic surgery,” they write.

However, newer gut hormone–based therapies with greater efficacy than liraglutide 3.0 mg (for example, semaglutide and tirzepatide) are emerging, they add.

Therefore, “randomized clinical trials investigating the efficacy of novel pharmaceutical agents will be needed to generate the evidence required to deliver individualized precision-medicine approaches to patients with obesity and suboptimal weight loss following metabolic surgery,” the researchers urge.

‘Extremely welcome tools for severe obesity’

“The additional weight loss with associated favorable metabolic changes achieved with liraglutide reported in [the BARI-OPTIMISE and GRAVITAS trials] is extremely welcomed with the new antiobesity medications ... adding another effective tool in the toolbox for the treatment of severe obesity,” Paulina Salminen, MD, PhD, Turku (Finland) University Hospital, and Ali Aminian, MD, Cleveland Clinic, write in an accompanying editorial.

However, they also point to limitations of the current trial.

Almost all patients (65 of 70 [93%]) underwent laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy in BARI-OPTIMISE. However, “there are safe and more effective surgical options that can be considered in patients with suboptimal initial clinical response or recurrent weight gain” after laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy, such as “conversion to Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB), duodenal switch, or single-anastomosis duodeno-ileal bypass,” they note.

The small number of patients and low follow-up rate of 81% (57 of 70 patients) for the short intervention are other limitations.

“In treating a patient with ischemic heart disease, a combination of lifestyle intervention, risk factor modification, pharmacotherapy, coronary stenting, and open-heart surgery may be needed,” note the editorialists. “A very similar concept would be applicable in the management of severe obesity.”

In the past, they add, there was not much progress with combination therapies for obesity because of a lack of effective antiobesity medications.

However, “with the better availability of potent [antiobesity medications] now and in the near future, the practice of combination therapy will grow as [metabolic and bariatric surgery] and [antiobesity medications] work in synergy in both treating severe obesity and hopefully also in enabling increased access to effective obesity treatment,” Dr. Salminen and Dr. Aminian speculate.

“Hopefully, based on findings of future studies and the use of global uniform criteria for evaluating treatment outcomes,” the editorialists conclude, “we can develop practice guidelines to assist and optimize phenotype-tailored multimodal treatment of this heterogeneous chronic disease of severe obesity.”


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